Muslims blamed for deaths of 35 Hindus

Violence in 2 villages of Indian Kashmir just before high-level talks


NEW DELHI, India --Thirty-five Hindus were killed in recent days in two incidents in the Indian-administered portion of the disputed Kashmir province, police said yesterday. The killings were believed to be the work of Islamist militants, days before a meeting of the Indian prime minister with Kashmiri separatists.

In one incident, gunmen stormed a village in a district called Doda, dragged Hindu villagers from their homes and shot 22 to death.

In another, in neighboring Udhampur district, suspected militants kidnapped 13 villagers from a remote mountainous spot; four of their bodies were found lying in the woods late Sunday and the rest were discovered yesterday, according to police.

Even by the standards of blood-soaked Kashmir, it was a particularly grisly pair of incidents and the deadliest violence since peace talks began more than two years ago between India and Pakistan, neighbors and rivals on the question of Kashmir. They are particularly worrisome because they are so plainly designed to fuel Hindu-Muslim tensions.

Their impact is certainly likely to be felt on talks, slated to begin tomorrow on the future of Kashmir, between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a coalition of Kashmiri separatist leaders known as the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

The last time the prime minister announced a roundtable on Kashmir, in March, Hurriyat leaders did not show up in protest. Along with the government of Pakistan, they have lately increased their criticism of New Delhi, saying that the Indian government is dragging its feet on a resolution to the Kashmir dispute.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan have, even by the Indian government's assessment, radically reduced violence in Indian Kashmir. But killings, blamed on both security forces and militants, continue.

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